More than 171 trillion pieces of plastic are currently floating in the world’s oceans, according to a study by a group of scientists who analyzed data starting from 1979 to recent expeditions that trawl the seas to collect plastics. Single-use plastics such as bottles, packaging, and fishing equipment break down over time into smaller pieces due to sunlight or mechanical degradation, posing a grave threat to marine life.
Wildlife mistake plastic for their prey and can die of starvation as plastic fills their stomachs. The concentration of plastics in the oceans has significantly increased from around 16 trillion pieces in 2005 to 171 trillion in 2019, and it could nearly triple by 2040 if no action is taken. According to BBC, the highest concentration of ocean plastic is currently in the Mediterranean Sea, with some large floating masses found elsewhere, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Solutions must focus on reducing the amount of plastic produced and used, rather than cleaning up oceans and recycling plastics because this is less likely to stop the flow of pollution.